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January 23, 2006   Email to Friend 

Eminent Domain Bills Draw Public Comment

The Senate Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics & Elections (CFE&E) Committee carried over two eminent domain bills Wednesday due to opposition voiced by people who attended a public hearing on the legislation.

Many in the crowd said SB 119, sponsored by Sen. Larry Dixon, R-Montgomery, and SB 136, sponsored by Sen. Jack Biddle, R-Gardendale, do not go far enough in protecting private property rights. The Committee assured those in attendance that it was interested in passing a strong eminent domain bill. Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, however, was not in agreement with other committee members because he wants to preserve the ability of government to use eminent domain to condemn “blighted” areas.

Sen. Steve French, R-Birmingham, also has introduced two eminent domain bills. SB 202 is in the Economic Expansion & Trade Committee, and SB 297 has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Rep. Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale has introduced HB 151.

The Alabama Farmers Federation is currently working on a constitutional amendment that addresses blight and other concerns. Sen. Jim Preuitt, D-Talladega, and Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, have agreed to sponsor the legislation.

Federation members are encouraged to contact their legislators and ask them to cosponsor the Preuitt-Black constitutional amendment.


Bill Introduced To Create Center For Rural Alabama

Bills that would create the Center for Rural Alabama for the purpose of sustaining economic growth in the rural areas of Alabama have been introduced in both houses of the Legislature.

SB 135 is sponsored by Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, and HB 358 was introduced by Rep. Frank McDaniel, D-Albertville.

The center would be governed by the Center for Rural Alabama Board of Trustees, having appointments from the governor, lieutenant governor, president pro tempore of the Senate, the speaker of the House of Representatives and the commissioner of Agriculture and Industries.

Provisions would be made for public or private participation by groups interested in rural development, including the Alabama Farmers Federation. The center would be staffed by a director and such employees as approved by the board of trustees. The bill would grant the center and director certain powers and duties to coordinate and maximize resources and leadership in assisting rural communities in obtaining greater economic opportunity and development. It is still undecided how the center will be funded. AFF supports this concept but seeks to amend certain provisions. Monitoring.


Cotton Module Truck Bill Faces Opposition

A bill that would clarify the exemption for certain width, height, length and gross weight requirements for cotton module trucks drew opposition this week from the Department of Transportation (ALDOT).

SB 69, sponsored by Sen. Zeb Little, D-Cullman, and HB 206, sponsored by Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre, would provide that the annual license tax and registration of a vehicle designed and especially constructed to transport raw cotton from harvest to a cotton gin could be no more than $250.

Both bills were introduced early in the session, and the House version is in the Public Safety Committee chaired by Rep. Bill Clark, D-Prichard. The Senate version has passed the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee and is awaiting action by the full Senate.

This is the second year the cotton module truck bill has been introduced. The Alabama Department of Transportation has blocked passage of the legislation, claiming it would have a negative economic impact on the state. ALDOT also said it would propose legislation to delete other exemptions currently in the law.

The bill is needed because owners of cotton module trucks are currently paying road taxes for 12 months and only traveling on the road for three of those months. Because of the way the truck is manufactured it is not used for any other purpose outside the ginning season. In addition, the trucks’ axles are located toward the front, making it almost impossible to comply with current weight laws. The Federation will continue to meet with the Department of Transportation and the sponsors. AFF Supports as written.


CORRECTION

The Alabama Farmers Federation Forestry Committee has only endorsed Kenneth Real’s appointment to the Alabama Forestry Commission. He was nominated by the governor the first week of the session.

It was mistakenly reported in last week’s Capitol Connection that the Federation was supporting Melisa Love. The Federation Forestry Committee has not taken a position on anyone except Real.

Real is a registered consulting forester from Detroit, Ala., and is currently serving as the Marion County Farmers Federation president. The Senate Confirmation Committee failed to consider any of the nominations for the Forestry Commission this week. We regret the error.


New ADEM Commissioner Confirmed By Senate

The Senate this week confirmed Gov. Bob Riley’s appointment of Dr. Kathleen Jo Felker to serve a six-year term on the Environmental Management Commission.

Dr. Felker is director of imaging at Crestwood Women’s Center in Huntsville. She will serve in the position designated for someone licensed to practice medicine in the state of Alabama.

She holds an M.D. from the University of Alabama School of Medicine, a master’s degree in engineering from the University of Alabama Huntsville and a bachelor’s in biology with a minor in chemistry from Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

Sens. Hinton Mitchem, D-Albertville, and Tommy Ed Roberts, D-Decatur, were especially pleased that someone from north Alabama was appointed to the ADEM Commission because most of the representation for the statewide agency has been from south of Birmingham.

Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, praised the diversity of the commission. Dr. Felker will be the only female on the seven-member commission.


Bills In Brief

Fish-Weighing Bill -- SB 165 and HB 180

HB 180, sponsored by Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, passed the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday and is now awaiting action by the entire House. The companion bill, SB 165, sponsored by Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, passed the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee last week and is awaiting action by the full Senate. The bill would require fish-weighing devices to conform to certain legal requirements. Processors would have to drain the water in weighing baskets containing farm-raised catfish before weighing. This bill also would require farm-raised catfish to be weighed with a device capable of electronically printing a ticket that provides an exact duplicate of the weight indicated to the farmer.

This bill would allow a deduction from the weight of the catfish for any foreign substances in the weighing basket. AFF Supports.

Fish Country of Origin Labeling -- SB 320 and HB 395

SB 320, sponsored by Sen. Jim Preuitt, D-Talladega, was introduced Thursday and was assigned to the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee. HB 395, sponsored by Rep. Spencer Collier, R-Irvington, has been assigned to the House Agriculture and Forestry Committee. This bill would require that farm-raised fish and wild fish used for human consumption be labeled as imported or domestic. The Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture would be authorized to conduct the inspections and levy fines for non-compliance. AFF Supports.

Department of Agriculture Confidentiality Bill - HB 254 Passes House Agriculture Committee

HB 254, sponsored by Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Gadsden, passed the House Agriculture and Forestry Committee Wednesday. The bill changes the existing law on information collected by the state Department of Agriculture and Industries from livestock farmers in order to implement and maintain a database consistent with the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Identification System.

Under existing law, the commissioner of Agriculture and Industries has no specific authority to keep confidential any personal information about individual farming operations in the interest of public health, safety and welfare. This bill would authorize the department to develop and implement an animal identification system consistent with the USDA. This bill also would provide that information collected by the department to implement and maintain the animal identification system would be confidential with certain exceptions.

This bill would authorize the commissioner to make confidential certain information collected in the interest of public health, safety and welfare. It would apply to information regarding livestock, milk and dairy products, eggs, cotton, poultry, commercial feed, grain, seed, fertilizer, plants and trees, pesticides, or any other subject regulated by the department. Commissioner Ron Sparks stated in the committee meeting that such information does not need to be public information where potential terrorists would have knowledge of our food supply. AFF Monitoring.

Non-Payment of Ag Goods -- HB 9 and SB 292

SB 292, sponsored by Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, was introduced Thursday and was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. HB 9, sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Oden, R-Eva, is on the calendar for debate by the full House. This legislation would establish the crime of failure to pay for agricultural products and would create penalties for any person who either, on their own account or that of others, has a fraudulent intent and buys agriculture products or chattel and refuses to pay within the contract date or within 20 days following receipt of the commodity. The violator would be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. If the value exceeds $1,000, it would be a Class C felony. Some paper and pulp companies are opposed to this bill as written. The Federation will continue to work with the sponsors. AFF Supports.

Family Farm Preservation Act – SB 244

SB 244, sponsored by Sen. Zeb Little, D-Cullman, was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it has died the past two years. That committee is chaired by Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, and he will determine when the bill will be on the agenda for consideration this session. The bill would provide that a farm or an expansion of a farm could not be found to be a public or private nuisance or to be in violation of county or municipal ordinances or resolutions if the farm is operated in accordance with applicable laws and regulations and does not violate certain designated practices. The bill also would authorize the farm owner to recover legal fees in the event the owner of the farm prevails in any legal action to declare a farm operation to be a nuisance. AFF Supports.


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